All about sports

Published 9:05 am Monday, June 27, 2011

EA head football coach Heath Gibson speaks to his players during a football game last season.|File Photo

Sports are all Heath Gibson has ever known, so when it came to deciding on a career the man nicknamed “Pocket Rocket” in high school chose what kept him close to action.

Gibson, the athletic director for Escambia Academy, is the head coach for football, baseball and girls basketball, but long before he became a coach, he was a five-sport athlete at W.S. Neal High School.

Gibson, 36, grew up in East Brewton.

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“It was always just home to me,” Gibson said. “I didn’t know anything else. When you grow up there as a little boy, you always dream of playing for W.S. Neal one day. We never moved anywhere else, and I always knew that as home.”

At Neal, Gibson took part in every sport he could be a part of.

His competitive nature was something that came to him whenever he put on a uniform, and he displayed it as soon as a game began.

Gibson said he was a part of some winning teams, but could never get over the hump in his top sports.

“I played football, basketball, baseball, ran track and was on the weightlifting team, he said. “I made a lot of All-Tournament, All-County teams and even made some All-Star teams, but in my main sports, we never won any state championships. I was on a state championship weight lifting team, but that was all. We came close to winning some areas in other sports, but never got any.”

On the football field, Gibson starred as a scatback for the Eagles, helping his team achieve successes in his four years at the high school.

He said that football was the sport he most wanted to play, and added that he came away with a lot of good memories of it.”

“Favorite sport was always football,” he said. “I always loved playing that, but for me it was mainly whatever sport was ever in season. I just loved playing anything and staying active. I just loved to win. My senior year holds some of my greatest memories. Our team went 9-1 in the regular season and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. At one point, we were ranked No. 1 in the state, and it was just a really good season.”

As a child, Gibson knew that he wanted sports to be his life because of his love for competition.

Through that love, he began to dream the dream that so many young athletes have of playing professional sports.

Gibson said he wanted to be a professional athlete but knew that no matter what he wanted to be involved in athletics.

“Every young athlete always has dreams of playing pro sports,” Gibson said. “At the same time, I knew I wanted to be a coach if I couldn’t do that. I wanted to turn back and be a part of sports.”

Following graduation, Gibson was able to extend his playing career by signing a baseball scholarship with Jefferson Davis Community College in Brewton.

Playing college baseball gave him a new found love for the diamond since he did not have football or basketball, Gibson said.

“I went two Jeff Davis for two years playing baseball and then went to Auburn University-Montgomery for the final two years to play baseball,” he said. “It was enjoyable. Once I got there and knew that I didn’t have football or basketball, I just honed in on baseball. When you do that, you learn to love that sport and you enjoy it more.”

The college experience was different than what he had in high school, but the demand did not slow him down. While it required his full attention, Gibson said he learned to love what he was doing so many days out of the year.

“It was all day and all night,” he said. “Playing 60 game schedules during the spring and 40 in the fall. It was just a great experience. In between practices and games, it was demanding at times and enjoyable at times. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

After college, Gibson continued his dedication to athletics by becoming a coach.

Being a coach is Gibson’s way of paying forward what he was taught in high school and college, he said, crediting high school coach Hugh Fountain as an important role model.

“Coach Fountain had a huge impact on me,” he said. “He taught me a lot of things that I needed to grow up, like hard work. That’s Hugh Fountain. I try to tell kids that when you get to college things are going to be tough. There are coaches that will try to break you or see how far they can push you. I tell them you can’t let that happen, and that is something that he taught me.”

Now that he has been at Escambia Academy for the last several years, Gibson said he knows he his exactly where he needs to be.

The three-sport head coach said that what he is doing is the only thing he has ever known, so there would be no other career for him.

“The only thing I know is coaching,” he said. “I don’t know if there would be anything else. Coaching and sports is all I’ve ever known. I never thought any further than that.”